This is a question that most students ask in high school – I would know because I am a philosophy professor and this question comes up all the time. However, the question is a legitimate one, especially because philosophy is the oldest of all the sciences. Regarding metaphysics, Aristotle claimed that “every man by nature strives for knowledge” and philosophy is the beginning of all knowledge.
This knowledge is usually theoretical (but it can be practical, too), and it starts with wonder. We wonder and come up with so many questions about the universe, the soul, our personality, free will, the nature of knowledge, and so on. The possible list of questions is infinite, but the fact remains that these questions can’t be answered by science.
There are also practical questions such as: “what is a good life?”, “what is good?”, “what is power?” and “is there an objective criteria for something being beautiful?”. Again, the questions are numerous, but all these questions have something in common, and that is their philosophical nature. That being said, the answers aren’t always simple and they tend to vary.
I like to say that life needs philosophy. If what we call “life” is nothing more than the time that passes between the moment you’re born until the moment of your death, then the life we know is no different from the life of bacteria, for example. In this case, life doesn’t matter, since we’re all destined to die. On the other hand, if you think of life as something bigger than yourself, then these questions and answers become applicable to a different dimension of existence.
So, why is philosophy important for life?
Well, as shown in the many questions above, we tend to ask philosophical questions without noticing that they are philosophical in nature. This leads us to the conclusion that (human) life strives for knowledge, which cements the truth of Aristotle’s quote at the beginning of this article.
One of the finest examples of how philosophy influences everyday life is presented by the Stoic, Epicurean, and Skeptic schools. These schools of thought may belong to the ancient world, yet they are ever more prevalent today. This is because people nowadays are seeking wisdom and practical knowledge about how to live. Is it possible that we’re in a crisis and that we’ve forgotten how to live? Maybe.
The solution lies with us; we have to find the path ourselves, but philosophy is a scythe that can help us create that path. This is one of the reasons why I disagree with the common opinion that philosophy itself is the path. You can follow the footsteps of the ancient philosophers, but those footsteps will stop eventually and then you’ll have to continue alone and make your own path. This brings us back to the first premise that philosophy is something bigger than ourselves.
The question “why do I need philosophy for life” can’t be answered from one side, because it requires a philosopher to understand that question. If you only ever watch someone who is swimming, you’ll never learn how to swim or how the water feels. The same is true for philosophy, you must be “in it” to understand the question and its possible answer. Essentially, in your pursuit to find a life philosophy, you will find something much richer, which is your own reason coupled with philosophy.